A Survivalist’s Guide To IKEA

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I haven’t seen natural light in hours. The sweet aroma of cinnamon rolls fills my nose yet I haven’t actually seen any food so far. The subtle vibration on my wrist is my FitBit letting me know that I have exceeded the 10,000 daily step goal today and I can’t wait to get back to my car, wherever it is. I follow the glow of white arrows shining on the floor with determination.This must be how test mice feel as they run through a maze. Has anyone seen a damn bathroom around here? I hate the bulky, ugly and unnecessarily noisy yellow bags that everyone carries but that same bag is strapped around my shoulder as well. If I collapse, will anyone find me? Will anyone care? When does it end? Will it ever end?

My experiences and thoughts on my last IKEA trip have been shared by many others as they cross the threshold of the sliding doors of that blue and yellow mega-building. IKEA is the mecca for postgrads who want their home to look somewhat grown up for half the price. For a couple hundred bucks, you could upgrade your plastic utensils, your night stand cardboard box, your TV stand that’s really just your summer clothes storage bin, and a real toilet paper holder (leaving a roll on the floor or on the toilet is frowned upon by society). If you’re a rookie, you can’t just walk in IKEA all willy nilly and not expect angry looks by the experts. Preparation is key in that concrete jungle.

Find Your Inner Bear Grylls

IKEA trips are a game of survival. You could be in there for hours. You don’t know when you’ll see sunlight next, so you need to bring the essentials. Channeling your inner Bear Grylls is important. Bring a water canteen and maybe a flare gun if you get lost. If you’re the type who gets hangry, bring along a granola bar or something. Those Swedish bastards don’t nourish your body until the very end when you don’t care how much their concession food costs. That can’t not be intentional.

“What’s-a behind me is not important.” – Franco, The Gumball Rally

The Italian racer, Franco, in the 1976 comedy classic The Gumball Rally said these brilliant words that accurately describes the Golden Rule of IKEA shopping. You follow those glowing arrows and you don’t look back. You don’t get to go against the grain of human cattle. Once you passed something, it’s gone, my friends. It ceases to exist. You’ll have to come back for it next time. Nothing holds traffic up more than people getting out of the way of your goofy ass because you didn’t grab a .50 cent toilet brush 20 yards back.

Caution: Slow Walkers

What might be worse than the person who goes back for crap are slow walkers; those who believe IKEA is the ideal place for a Sunday stroll and always have too many unruly children with them. You can shoot the gap and get by them, but as soon as you stop to look at the 200 square feet model room (seriously, how is that small of a space possible or legal?), they get right back in front of you. It’s like every horror movie where the zombie or ax wielding lunatic is unbelievably slow compared to the frightened person’s pace yet they always seem to catch up to them.

Your Knees Will Hate You

Think of every shopping cart you have ever used. Target, Walmart, Kroger, and the liquor store all share the same two wheel drive cart idea, but not IKEA. No, they have to go with the 4 wheel drive that makes every single turn one step away from a blown knee. Maneuvering within the confines of the tiny aisles makes their carts decent, but once you get an open lane and turn, you’re going to feel the burn in your arms and knees. You might want to take a page out of the NFL Quarterback playbook and wear a knee brace or two.

The Bell Curve Theory

If you’re not ready to leave IKEA and want to breathe in that cinnamon roll filled air, go ahead and pick the middle aisles to check out. If you’re not one of those people and want to leave that purgatory, shoot for the checkout aisles on the flanks. People are not as smart as we like to think we are. The majority will flock together in the middle despite far shorter lines along the sides. Another perk? The “As-Is” aisle is usually on one of those sides, so you can check out a table that has a small defect or floor model items with big discounts as you wait.

Good luck out there and don’t forget to grab a hjälmaren.

Image via Mawardi Bahar /

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